1. Get the sound right at the source.
The single biggest thing that will affect the quality of your recording is
the quality of the source. Use the best instruments available. Put new
strings on that guitar. Make sure the amp sounds perfect acoustically in
the room before you put a Mic on it. Make sure the vocalist is warmed
up and in the right mood to deliver a world class performance. Tune the
drums so they sound great in the room.
2. The right Microphone
Use the right Mic and the right polar pattern to capture the sound as
There are many choices of Mic - make sure you select the right Mic
for the job - I.e.. Choose a Large Diaphragm Condensor to track vocals,
use it in Cardioid to minimise reflections from the room, plus choose a
Mic with a hardness that is opposite your source. (mellow voice use a
Mic with a strong presence and conversely for a 'pointed' or 'harsh'
sounding voice use a mellow sounding Mic.)
For brass instruments try a ribbon Mic but remember most ribbons
are Fig 8 pattern so be careful what is directly behind the Mic - a tip
here is to use the null point in the Fig 8 pattern to minimise spill from a
nearby instrument if recording multiple horns at once.
Try LDC's as overheads or Pencil Condensor's or even Ribbons. Use
a 57 on guitar cab or try a LDC. With the drum mics get the Mic as
close to the skin as possible to capture the 'whack' of the stick hitting
Don't be afraid to Google search what pro's are doing and try their
3. Close or Roomy
Decide whether you want the sound to be Close or Roomy / Distant (or
even better give both options.)
Work out beforehand how you want the source to sound. Close and
direct or distant and roomy. As a rule always get the close sound
captured and put up a second Mic or a stereo pair to capture the room
sound if you have time or want to try something unusual. Generally
natural ambience sounds better than an artificial reverb however if your
room doesn't sound great then don't bother.
There is always a point where the Mic sounds best. Put your ear
where the Mic is going to go and make sure it sounds good.
Experiment with positions. Record a 30 second clip and have a listen
back with the artist / musician to make sure you are both happy with the
If the Mic and source are good and you've got the position right you
should be able to just turn it up in the mix and it should sound pretty
4. Head Phone mix
Get the Headphone mix right
This can make a massive difference to how well your talent performs.
Take the time to get the headphone mix just right. If the singer wants
reverb or delay (or both) give it to them. Have a listen yourself so you
know what they are getting. If you don't like the way it's sounding
there's a fair chance they won't either and it will lead to an inferior
performance. Also be careful that there is not to much Latency as that
will be off putting for the artist. As a rule I monitor 'direct' from the Mic
pre to my headphone amp rather than through my DAW.
5. Bouncing your tracks
When bouncing tracks for the mix engineer always give him / her the
natural 'raw' data unprocessed in anyway plus a version with effects /
processing if you particularly like the way it sounds (or the mix engineer
doesn't have the same or similar tools as you)
There is a pretty good chance that the tools the mix engineer has will
be better than what you have but you can't expect them to have
absolutely every plugin and effect known to man.
The secret here is to give the mix engineer options. If you've already
eq'd, compressed and effected the sound then they are stuck with that
sound. However if they have the raw recorded sound clean and dry they
have a lot more potential to get it sounding amazing and help your end
product sound world class. Of course sometimes you are in love with a
particular effect or it's integral to the Produced direction of the song so
give that to the mix engineer also. He/she may even be able to use the
raw track to go in the direction you want but sound even better than what
Of course export all tracks from the same point (usually zero in the
project) and make sure you export them at the same resolution. Always
work at 24 Bit minimum. I tend to mix at 96k but most projects I get are
recorded at 44.1k or 48k. That's no problem; I just upsample them as I
1. Get the sound right at the source.